Thursday, October 14, 2010

Computer Music's Pro Remixing Tips Discussion Part 2

Tips 10-18, in this second and final part of Computer Music's remixing tips.

 10. Improvise and innovate
Can't find that critical sound? If you haven't been supplied with a part that you feel is necessary to retain some of the original vibe, you have nothing to lose by setting out to create something similar. It might seem to compromise the integrity of the remix, but you've got to be realistic about your circumstances and do the best you can. Who knows - you might end up with something that works better than the original sound would have.
It took me a while to get what they even meant here, but they're absolutetly right. Say you're doing a typical trance remix of a song. Chances are, it won't include the big epic detuned saw riff that you want to include. Make it yourself.

11. Push the limits
Rejuvenate the original track's musical ideas by extending or hyping up the existing parts. Play with faster rhythms and new variations on the main theme. An unexpected element can really help your mix to stand out. Reinvent parts that didn't formerly sound exciting enough in your new genre. Push every idea as far as you can take it and see where you end up. On a practical note, when working at a faster tempo, it might be necessary to extend a loop to prevent grating.
The area I notice this most in is sampled hip-hop beats. They often take the tiniest bit of music from the original song, and repeat it over and over in a whole new way. Example; this is Gang Starr's Full Clip. Listen to that beat. Now, here is the song it was sampled from: Cal Tjader's Walk on By. Try finding that beat in there. No? It's at 0:25. Someone with a keen ear listened to that, suddenly realised that looping that specific part would sound really cool, then did, and it did.

12. Substance abuse
When you're stuck, look to the original track for inspiration. You should always consider abusing the original elements! Try completely changing the context of a part. Why not make a string motif your new bassline, or the original bassline your new synth riff? There are no limits to the potential of any idea if you let your imagination run wild. Something that might have seemed useless on first glance could turn out to be your saviour when you need a quick idea later on in the mix.
I can't think of an example off the top of my head, but I can imagine this having some really neat results. One problem is that using a part in a completely different area requires some serious beat-wrangling, but if you feel you're up to the challenge, fire away.

13. Cut and extend
If you're forced to cut a sample short and it sounds abrupt, extend it artificially with the crafty use of a little reverb and/or delay. In some cases, a 100% wet version of the end of the sound can be crossfaded with the abrupt tail of the original sound to create a seamless extension. At other times, a gentle, tempo-synced delay will do the job.
These are some basic ideas when working with samples, but yes, they can occasionally save your life. You have to realise, this will often have the best effect on something like a synth line, which turns out to be the kind of sample that some smart slicing in the right areas will have the best results on, and will often sound much better. What I'm trying to say is that you should try at least two approaches and see which sounds best.

14. Hide and seek
If you find there's a bad sound you can't get rid of in a sample that you need to use, try masking it with new sounds. Drown out unwanted ambience with a huge wash of reverb on another part. Strategically place clicky, percussive parts to distract the ear from annoying crackling in a loop lifted from vinyl. While it might be difficult to eliminate a particular sound from the mix, it can take little effort to hide it behind something else.
Great idea that I never really thought of before. I'm not sure how well this works and what sounds work best for hiding the original, but some controlled messing about will probably give me an answer. Keep in mind, there are plenty of sound restoration tools available that might be a more subtle solution to the same problem.

15. Push it real good
Play to the strengths and weaknesses of the original track. Ask yourself what you can fix that was lacking in the first version. What can you improve? Does it sport an extremely funky bass riff? Find ways to go even funkier. Do the drums lack power? Work out a way that you can create powerful drums that do the job. It's good to be ultra critical of the original version when deciding how to approach your remix.
This requires you to stay pretty true to the original track, I think. When you have your remix that sounds little like the original, it's pretty obvious that you're gonna have to alter all the original pieces so they both sit in your mix properly and have some extra punch.

16. The simple life
Keep it simple. Simplicity is pure, bold and memorable. Don't overcomplicate your remix with too much random stuff going on. It's OK to intricately work in a lot of elements, as long as you keep in mind how they all work together. That takes skill and a lot of patience, but it's definitely better than confusing the listener or distracting them with inappropriate things going on all over the mix.
Definately does not apply in every genre of music. Particularly in big beat tracks, you often have towering drums combined with tons of small little synths, a bassline, sometimes a guitar hook, and trumpets maybe? But, in most cases, especially dance music, this is a good thing to keep in mind.

17. What's your goal?
Be creative. A remix doesn't have to mimic its original in every way. If you happen to have an idea that's not particularly relevant to the original but that you love, why not just go for it? Sometimes you have to ask yourself where your values lie, though - do you specifically want to produce a good rework of that particular track, or are you using the remix as an excuse to use those parts in your usual quest for the perfect production?
If you're not creative, music is not something you should waste your time on. I think these are some very strange points altogether, they seem to contradict each other, and relate very little to an actual remix.

18. Free and easy
Look out for free plug-ins and keep them all in a folder where they're easy to access. They need not be the most commonly used effects, nor of the highest sonic calibre, but when it comes to processing sounds beyond recognition, sometimes quantity saves the day where quality falls short. You never know - you might be surprised at how high-quality some of them really are.
Be aware that a ton of plug-ins, even if you don't use them might slow down your DAW. Also, be aware that applying a huge amount of lower-quality plug-ins to a sound because a single good one doesn't sound well enough is probably the worst idea I have ever heard. But who knows, maybe you get some really cool results.


  1. kinda makes me wanna start mixing again. good stuff man!

  2. this is great, I was waiting for it sense yesterday!


  3. Great tips! Very handy for some home-recordings and things that I do. My tools are limited, but this is good advice to keep me on track of what to look out for.

  4. Wow man. That's really helpful and pretty inspiring. :D

  5. this really super helpful. ive been struggling with mixing for a while and never really found a place for any help. sweet!

  6. Good post, you clearly know your stuff. Much love

  7. thanks man. my setup isn't great at mixing, but i think its time to upgrade.

  8. I normally play with 1-bit sound so this is pretty flashy for me.

  9. my hobby is music production.. hopefully with this tips I'll bring quality of my songs to higher level.. thanks man ;)
    this one goes to favs :)

  10. thanks! can be very handy for my music "mixing tryouts" ;D

  11. Great part 2! Was waiting for this!

  12. I've always wanted to get into mixing, but I feel like I lack the creative skills :P

  13. Highest level blog, I'm glad I found it

  14. Okay. I've been having a lot of trouble with mixing up some dubchip tracks and after reading this I've got a fuckton of new ideas. Thanks, mate!

  15. Is there a good, free remuxing program?

  16. You should do some tutorials on womp and get some dubstep going haha. Good tips though :D

  17. wow very interesting! Grat tips!

  18. Now I can create the next bed intruder song

  19. I can't wait for more info... I'm going to get good at this